WHAT WITH Manchester United's first team pulling in the crowds at Haydock Park across the water, it seemed rather appropriate when Fahd Salman relied on football's oldest cliche after the Irish Oaks at the Curragh yesterday afternoon. His filly Ramruma had just added the Classic to her victory in the original at Epsom last month, and Salman was asked how he felt. "I am," he replied, with no obvious trace of irony, "over the moon."
And with good reason. It was not a gallop, but a swagger which Ramruma used to subdue her six opponents. Just as he had at Epsom, Kieren Fallon kept her close to the early pace, and then kicked on with almost three furlongs still to run. They were simple tactics, and just what his rivals would have anticipated, but there soon proved to be a deal of difference between knowing what to expect, and actually doing something about it.
The fight was over in seconds, as Ramruma started to take a length out of her field with every dozen strides. Fallon, who had never before won a Classic in his native country, coasted home by seven lengths, with Sunspangled running Sister Bella out of second place on the line.
There will be nit-pickers who point out that Ramruma was already rated so far in advance of yesterday's field that seven lengths was the least anyone could expect from the 4-9 favourite. They should get a life. This was a performance which said more than numbers ever could about an exceptional racehorse, who seems to radiate an aura of triumph from the moment she engages top gear.
"She felt a stronger and better filly than at Epsom," Fallon said. "Mentally and physically she has come on and we were always going to win."
Ramruma has now won two Group One races in the space of five weeks, and the pace is unlikely to slacken this side of the St Leger at Doncaster in September. At Town Moor, she will try to win a fourth British Classic from five this year for Fallon and Henry Cecil, but in the meantime, there is also the Yorkshire Oaks at the Ebor meeting, another Group One, to consider.
"As she had some soreness in her back after winning at Lingfield [in May], she is even better now than at Epsom," Cecil said. "She is a very good filly and improving all the time, but we will get the Yorkshire Oaks and the St Leger over first before we think about retiring her or staying on next season."
It was no surprise to find Ramruma clear at the head of the market for the St Leger when Coral opened a book on the race yesterday. They offer 4-1 against her, which looks a fair price when you consider that she could well improve further for a step up in trip. She will also be a whole lot shorter if she actually makes it to Town Moor.
The next horse in the betting is Daliapour, runner-up in both the Epsom and Irish Derbys, at 8-1. He seems certain to improve for another two and a half furlongs, and could also get the soft ground in Yorkshire that suits him best. He is followed in the list by Noushkey, Ramruma's Oaks victim, at 10-1, while All The Way, who must have it firm, is on 12-1 along with Elmutabaki.
Coral will doubtless find a few optimists prepared to take the 4-1 about Ramruma this morning. A thought worth considering, though, is the possibility that a really convincing display in the Yorkshire Oaks might persuade her connections to give her a rest, miss the Leger and go to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on 3 October instead. That scenario would leave ante-post backers feeling, as Fahd Salman might well put it, as sick as a crateful of parrots.
ST LEGER (Doncaster, 11 September): Coral: 4-1 Ramruma, 8-1 Daliapour, 10-1 Noushkey, 12-1 All The Way, Elmutabaki, 14-1 Iscan, 16-1 Rhagaas, Mutafaweq, Tchaikovsky, Glamis, Bienamado, 20-1 Endorsement, Mukhalif.
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